Kim Johnson reporting A Utah doctor was an eyewitness to history the day President Reagan was shot outside a Washington, D.C. hotel.
Dr. Craig Harmon was a 3rd year medical student at George Washington University in 1981. He was in the Emergency Room just after the wounded President collapsed.
When Dr. Craig Harmon saw the flood of secret service agents crowd the emergency room he knew he was seeing history unfolding.
An artist's renderings show how the President walked into the hospital on his own, then collapsed.
Doctors could hardly detect any blood pressure, and tore off his clothes to try and determine why.
Dr. Craig Harmon: "I think a lot of the nation didn't realize how close the President was to death."
Harmon says because there was no appreciable exterior blood, No knew the president had been shot.
Not even Reagan himself.
Dr. Craig Harmon: "He thought he'd hurt his rib, in fact he'd said that to the secret service agent, "you know I think I've hurt my rib."
Harmon says the secret service wanted to get the president back to the White House as soon as possible.
Dr. Craig Harmon: “But then the president started to spit up blood, they decided to take him right to the emergency room. So it was that decision that really saved the President's life, because probably three or four minutes of that profuse bleeding without resuscitation or fluid and he would have died."
Doctors discovered a button hole sized bullet wound near Reagan's armpit.
They soon learned the bullet had severed a pulmonary artery, and that Reagan was bleeding internally.
Within 30 minutes of entering the hospital, Reagan was headed for surgery, with his trademark humor well in tact.
"When he was first taken to the operating room he looked around room and said to the doctors and said "I hope you're all Republicans". One of the chief surgeons who was operating, was actually a pretty liberal Democrat, and he said "today, Mr. President, we're all Republicans."
During the trauma Harmon remained on the periphery, helping Reagan's closest advisors, namely Lynn Nofziger arrange for press conferences, and guiding First Lady Nancy Reagan to a quiet place where she could rest in the hospital.
He says he also witnessed firsthand that the President was a genuine, and gracious man.
Dr. Craig Harmon: "It was never some kind of autocratic, I’m the President I demand this. He was very kind, always generous with praise in thanking everyone who was doing for him."
Dr. Harmon's thanks: Reagan's jar of jelly beans left behind in a hospital 23 years ago, after a President, and a nation, made it through a breathtaking moment of trauma.
Dr. Harmon is now practicing Internal Medicine in Salt Lake City.